Vintage Batmobile sells for £117,000: Time to search for your toy cars?
A toy Batmobile has just sold for a record-breaking £117,000. This open-top red tin car went under the hammer at a sale held by Heritage Auctions in the US for $150,000 earlier this month. Made in 1966 by the Japanese company Yonezawa, it fetched ten times its estimate thanks to a bidding war.
Such stratospheric prices are unusual for toy cars, but if you root around the attic and discover a box full of old diecast cars – as made by Dinky Toys, Corgi, Matchbox and Hot Wheels – you may be surprised to learn that many are now worth hundreds, and occasionally even thousands, of pounds.
Louise Harker, of auction house Vectis which specialises in toys, says: ‘There is growing interest among baby boomers who want to own favourites from their childhood. Film and TV shows that have stood the test of time – such as Batman – add to the appeal, as a new generation of fans also gets interested in related merchandise.
‘This increased demand pushes up prices of the limited number of surviving items.’
The Teesside-based auctioneer believes that the six-figure price for the Batmobile was exceptional, as it is possible that no other example in that condition with the original box exists. However, it could still have a knock-on effect, boosting values in the toy car market.
Red hot price: The Batmobile hit such a high price due to a bidding war but a raft of vintage toy cars are selling well
Harker says: ‘Movie spin-off merchandise is doing well at the moment, with those who were brought up in the 1960s and 1970s harking back to a time when they enjoyed the simple pleasures of life – such as playing with toy cars on the carpet.
‘But a collector is rarely satisfied with buying just one diecast model. What you tend to find is that when a better condition example of a favourite piece comes up for sale then they will snap this up as well. This is why we always recommend investing in the best quality car that you can afford.
‘And if you can find one with original packaging this is best of all.’
Having the original box that the car came in can double the total value of the toy. Harker points to a Corgi Batmobile – model 267 – as a great collectable item. This was made between 1966 and 1967 and came with a ‘pulsating exhaust’ and a dozen plastic red rockets.
Examples in pristine condition with the original box and instructions can sell for £750. Even without the packaging they can change hands for £100.
Hot Wheels also made a Batmobile in 1966 – a model R1793 – and Vectis sold one of these in a box for £180 this summer. But top condition examples of this Hot Wheels favourite can sell for up to £500.
Another film and TV favourite spin off is James Bond cars – and a lot of adults fondly remember owning a toy Aston Martin DB5 that was released by Corgi as model number 261.
First produced in 1965, few have survived the car crashes when playing with friends, getting chewed by the dog or subsequent decades of car boot sale clearouts.
‘Both car collectors and 007 secret agent fans want to own one,’ says Harker. But John Ennals, owner of the online vintage toy shop Tortoys, warns against buying such rarities blind from an internet auction website.
He recommends doing your homework first as the market is flooded with ‘restorations’ – meaning you might be buying a car that is made up of parts of different vehicles and resprayed.
Ennals adds: ‘I sell vehicles warts and all, and provide a detailed description. If you see something that looks brand new it is worth remembering that the paint on an original toy has been on the car for more than half a century so could have lost some of its lustre.
‘You should also not allow yourself to be confused by modern reproductions that might cost £30 and look great – but are not the originals.’
Tortoys has a 1960s Aston Martin DB5 Corgi 261 for sale at £320 – complete with working ejector seat for an included ‘baddie’, rear pop-up bullet proof screen and extending machine guns. It also comes with the original box, ‘secret instructions’ and a 007 adhesive lapel badge. But Tortoys also sells a ‘quality restoration’ example of the same toy complete with a reproduction box for £155.
Ennals says Dinky Toys can still command substantial prices, even though their popularity is waning in comparison with other brands in a market now dominated by baby boomers. For earlier generations Dinky Toys are the ones most fondly remembered.
Dinky began in 1934 as a Meccano spin-off – selling metal toy cars, boats, planes and vans to the pre-war generation. Manufacturing was suspended during the war and only returned in 1949.
Ennals says: ‘Despite the dwindling market for older cars in favour of more recent toys enjoyed by baby boomers after the Second World War, rare Dinky Toys survivors in the very best condition can still command huge prices.’ The highest price ever paid for a Dinky was £17,000 some 15 years ago for a 1930s ‘No 22D’ delivery van. More recently, a Thunderbirds Lady Penelope’s Fab 1 pink car by Dinky from 1966 with its original box sold by Vectis for £260.
Matchbox toy cars remain popular among the post-war generation. Production began in 1952 when engineer Jack Odell agreed to make a vehicle small enough to fit inside a matchbox if his daughter agreed to put the toy vehicles in the boxes instead of the insects she insisted on collecting.
Examples of the first Matchbox toy car, the ‘1a’ model ‘Aveling-Barford’ green road roller, can be worth as much as £160.
Ennals says that even lesser-loved toys of their day can do well as investments – as so few survive. He points to a late 1950s British Wolseley ‘model 57’ Matchbox car that can sell for £50. Ennals says: ‘Sadly, the British toy car manufacturing industry went much the way of our full-scale motoring industry and companies such as Wolseley.’
Now most diecast models are made in China. And by the 1980s youngsters were keener on computer games. Ennals says: ‘Collectors are not just interested in the art and skill required to make their childhood favourites but also in toy making history.’